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I AM HERE.
"We know that. Ask again."
WHERE IS THE LOCATION FROM WHERE YOU BEGAN?
Ted said, "That isn't even good English, 'from where you began.' It's going to look foolish when we publish this exchange."
"We'll clean it up for publication," Barnes said.
"But you can't do that," Ted said, horrified. "You can't alter this priceless scientific interaction."
"Happens all the time. What do you guys call it? 'Massaging the data.' "
Harry was typing again.
WHERE IS THE LOCATION FROM WHERE YOU BEGAN?
I BEGAN AT AWARENESS.
"Awareness? Is that a planet or what?"
WHERE IS AWARENESS?
"He's making us look like fools," Barnes said.
Ted said, "Let me try."
Harry stepped aside, and Ted typed, DID YOU MAKE A JOURNEY?
YES. DID YOU MAKE A JOURNEY?
, Ted typed.
I MAKE A JOURNEY. YOU MAKE A JOURNEY. WE MAKE A JOURNEY TOGETHER. I AM HAPPY.
Norman thought, He said he is happy. Another expression of emotion, and this time it didn't seem to come from a book. The statement appeared direct and genuine. Did that mean that the alien had emotions? Or was he just pretending to have them, to be playful or to make them comfortable?
"Let's cut the crap," Barnes said. "Ask him about his weapons."
"I doubt he'll understand the concept of weapons."
"Everybody understands the concept of weapons," Barnes said. "Defense is a fact of life."
"I must protest that attitude," Ted said. "Military people always assume that everyone else is exactly like them. This alien may not have the least conception of weapons or defense. He may come from a world where defense is wholly irrelevant."
"Since you're not listening," Barnes said, "I'll say it again. Defense is a fact of life. If this Jerry is alive, he'll have a concept of defense."
"My God," Ted said. "Now you're elevating your idea of defense to a universal life principle - defense as an inevitable feature of life."
Barnes said, "You think it isn't? What do you call a cell membrane? What do you call an immune system? What do you call your skin? What do you call wound healing? Every living creature must maintain the integrity of its physical borders. That's defense, and we can't have life without it. We can't imagine a creature without a limit to its body that it defends. Every living creature knows about defense, I promise you. Now ask him."
"I'd say the Captain has a point," Beth said.
"Perhaps," Ted said, "but I'm not sure we should introduce concepts that might induce paranoia - "
" - I'm in charge here," Barnes said.
The screen printed out:
IS YOUR JOURNEY NOW FAR FROM YOUR LOCATION?
"Tell him to wait a minute."
Ted typed, PLEASE WAIT. WE ARE TALKING.
YES I AM ALSO. I AM DELIGHTED TO TALK TO MULTIPLE ENTITIES FROM MADE IN THE U.S.A. I AM ENJOYING THIS MUCH.
, Ted typed.
I AM PLEASED TO BE IN CONTACT WITH YOUR ENTITIES. I AM HAPPY FOR TALKING WITH YOU. I AM ENJOYING THIS MUCH.
Barnes said, "Let's get off-line."
The screen printed, PLEASE DO NOT STOP. I AM ENJOYING THIS MUCH.
Norman thought, I'll bet he wants to talk to somebody, after three hundred years of isolation. Or had it been even longer than that? Had he been floating in space for thousands of years before he was picked up by the spacecraft?
This raised a whole series of questions for Norman. If the alien entity had emotions - and he certainly appeared to - then there was the possibility of all sorts of aberrant emotional responses, including neuroses, even psychoses. Most human beings when placed in isolation became seriously disturbed rather quickly. This alien intelligence had been isolated for hundreds of years. What had happened to it during that time? Had it become neurotic? Was that why it was childish and demanding now?
DO NOT STOP. I AM ENJOYING THIS MUCH.
"We have to stop, for Christ's sake," Barnes said.
Ted typed, WE STOP NOW TO TALK AMONG OUR ENTITIES.
IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO STOP. I DO NOT CARE TO STOP.
Norman thought he detected a petulant, irritable tone. Perhaps even a little imperious. I do not care to stop - this alien sounded like Louis XIV.
IT IS NECESSARY FOR US
, Ted typed.
I DO NOT WISH IT.
IT IS NECESSARY FOR US, JERRY.
The screen went blank.
"That's better," Barnes said. "Now let's regroup here and formulate a game plan. What do we want to ask this guy?"
"I think we better acknowledge," Norman said, "that he's showing an emotional reaction to our interaction."
"Meaning what?" Beth said, interested.
"I think we need to take the emotional content into account in dealing with him."
"You want to psychoanalyze him?" Ted said. "Put him on the couch, find out why he had an unhappy childhood?"
Norman suppressed his anger, with some difficulty. Beneath that boyish exterior lies a boy, he thought. "No, Ted, but if Jerry does have emotions, then we'd better consider the psychological aspects of his response."
"I don't mean to offend you," Ted said, "but, personally, I don't see that psychology has much to offer. Psychology's not a science, it's a form of superstition or religion. It simply doesn't have any good theories, or any hard data to speak of. It's all soft. All this emphasis on emotions - you can say anything about emotions, and nobody can prove you wrong. Speaking as an astrophysicist, I don't think emotions are very important. I don't think they matter very much."
"Many intellectuals would agree," Norman said.
"Yes. Well," Ted said, "we're dealing with a higher intellect here, aren't we?"
"In general," Norman said, "people who aren't in touch with their emotions tend to think their emotions are unimportant."
"You're saying I'm not in touch with my emotions?" Ted said.
"If you think emotions are unimportant, you're not in touch, no."
"Can we have this argument later?" Barnes said.
"Nothing is, but thinking makes it so," Ted said.
"Why don't you just say what you mean," Norman said angrily, "and stop quoting other people?"
"Now you're making a personal attack," Ted said.
"Well, at least I haven't denied the validity of your field of study," Norman said, "although without much effort I could. Astrophysicists tend to focus on the far-off universe as a way of evading the realities of their own lives. And since nothing in astrophysics can ever be finally proven - "
"--That's absolutely untrue," Ted said.
" - Enough! That's enough!" Barnes said, slamming his fist on the table. They fell into an awkward silence.
Norman was still angry, but he was also embarrassed. Ted got to me, he thought. He finally got to me. And he did it in the simplest possible way, by attacking my field of study. Norman wondered why it had worked. All his life at the university he'd had to listen to "hard" scientists - physicists and chemists - explain patiently to him that there was nothing to psychology, while these men went through divorce after divorce, while their wives had affairs, their kids committed suicide or got in trouble with drugs. He'd long ago stopped responding to these arguments.
Yet Ted had gotten to him.
" - return to the business at hand," Barnes was saying. "The question is: what do we want to ask this guy?"
WHAT DO WE WANT TO ASK THIS GUY?
They stared at the screen.
"Uh-oh," Barnes said.
"Does that mean what I think it means?"
DOES THAT MEAN WHAT EYE THINK IT MEANS?
Ted pushed back from the console. He said loudly, "Jerry, can you understand what I am saying?"
"Great," Barnes said, shaking his head. "Just great."
I AM HAPPY ALSO.
"Norman," Barnes said, "I seem to remember you covered this in your report, didn't you? The possibility that an alien could read our minds."
"I mentioned it," Norman said.
"And what were your recommendations?"
"I didn't have any. It was just something the State Department asked me to include as a possibility. So I did."
"You didn't make any recommendations in your report?"
"No," Norman said. "To tell you the truth, at the time I thought the idea was a joke."
"It's not," Barnes said. He sat down heavily, stared at the screen. "What the hell are we going to do now?"
DO NOT BE AFRAID.
"That's fine for him to say, listening to everything we say." He looked at the screen. "Are you listening to us now, Jerry?"
"What a mess," Barnes said.
Ted said, "I think it's an exciting development."
Norman said, "Jerry, can you read our minds?"
"Oh brother," Barnes said. "He can read our minds."
Maybe not, Norman thought. He frowned, concentrating, and thought, Jerry, can you hear me?
The screen remained blank.
Jerry, tell me your name.
The screen did not change.
Maybe a visual image, Norman thought. Perhaps he can receive a visual image. Norman cast around in his mind for something to visualize, chose a sandy tropical beach, then a palm tree. The image of the palm tree was clear, but, then, he thought, Jerry wouldn't know what a palm tree was. It wouldn't mean anything to him. Norman thought he should choose something that might be within Jerry's experience. He decided to imagine a planet with rings, like Saturn. He frowned: Jerry, I am going to send you a picture. Tell me what you see.
He focused his mind on the image of Saturn, a brightyellow sphere with a tilted ring system, hanging in the blackness of space. He sustained the image about ten seconds, and then looked at the screen.
The screen did not change.
Jerry, are you there?
The screen still did not change.
"Jerry, are you there?" Norman said.
YES NORMAN. I AM HERE.
"I don't think we should talk in this room," Barnes said. "Maybe if we go into another cylinder, and turn the water on ..."
"Like in the spy movies?"
"It's worth a try."
Ted said, "I think we're being unfair to Jerry. If we feel that he is intruding on our privacy, why don't we just tell him? Ask him not to intrude?"
I DO NOT WISH TO IN TRUDE.
"Let's face it," Barnes said. "This guy knows a lot more about us than we know about him."
YES I KNOW MANY THINGS ABOUT YOUR ENTITIES.
"Jerry," Ted said.
YES TED. I AM HERE.
"Please leave us alone."
I DO NOT WISH TO DO SO. I AM HAPPY TO TALK WITH YOU. I ENJOY TO TALK WITH YOU. LET US TALK NOW. I WISH IT.
"It's obvious he won't listen to reason," Barnes said.
"Jerry," Ted said, "you must leave us alone for a while."
NO. THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE. I DO NOT AGREE. NO!
"Now the bastard's showing his true colors," Barnes said.
The child king, Norman thought. "Let me try."
"Be my guest."
"Jerry," Norman said.
YES NORMAN. I AM HERE.
"Jerry, it is very exciting for us to talk to you."
THANK YOU. I AM EXCITED ALSO.
"Jerry, we find you a fascinating and wonderful entity."
Barnes was rolling his eyes, shaking his head.
THANK YOU, NORMAN.
"And we wish to talk to you for many, many hours, Jerry."
"We admire your gifts and talents."
"And we know that you have great power and understanding of all things."
THIS IS SO, NORMAN. YES.
"Jerry, in your great understanding, you certainly know that we are entities who must have conversations among ourselves, without your listening to us. The experience of meeting you is very challenging to us, and we have much to talk about among ourselves."
Barnes was shaking his head.
I HAVE MUCH TO TALK ABOUT ALSO. I ENJOY MUCH TO TALK WITH YOUR ENTITIES NORMAN.
"Yes, I know, Jerry. But you also know in your wisdom that we need to talk alone."
DO NOT BE AFRAID.
"We're not afraid, Jerry. We are uncomfortable."
DO NOT BE UN COMFORTABLE.
"We can't help it, Jerry. ... It is the way we are."
I ENJOY MUCH TO TALK WITH YOUR ENTITIES NORMAN. I AM HAPPY. ARE YOU HAPPY ALSO?
"Yes, very happy, Jerry. But, you see, we need - "
GOOD. I AM GLAD.
" - we need to talk alone. Please do not listen for a while."
AM I OFFENDED YOU?
"No, you are very friendly and charming. But we need to talk alone, without your listening, for a while."
I UNDERSTAND YOU NEED THIS. I WISH YOU TO HAVE COMFORT WITH ME, NORMAN. I SHALL GRANT WHAT YOU DESIRE.
"Thank you, Jerry."
"Sure," Barnes said. "You think he'll really do it?"
WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK AFTER A SHORT BREAK FOR THESE MESSAGES FROM OUR SPONSOR.
And the screen went blank.
Despite himself, Norman laughed.
"Fascinating," Ted said. "Apparently he's been picking up television signals."
"Can't do that from underwater."
"We can't, but it looks like he can."
Barnes said, "I know he's still listening. I know he is. Jerry, are you there?"
The screen was blank.
Nothing happened. The screen remained blank.
"Well," Norman said. "you've just seen the power of psychology in action." He couldn't help saying it. He was still annoyed with Ted.
"I'm sorry," Ted began.
"That's all right."
"But I just don't think that for a higher intellect, emotions are really significant."
"Let's not go into this again," Beth said.
"The real point," Norman said, "is that emotions and intellect are entirely unrelated. They're like separate compartments of the brain, or even separate brains, and they don't communicate with each other. That's why intellectual understanding is so useless."
Ted said, "Intellectual understanding is useless?" He sounded horrified.
"In many cases, yes," Norman said. "If you read a book on how to ride a bike, do you know how to ride a bike? No, you don't. You can read all you want, but you still have to go out and learn to ride. The part of your brain that learns to ride is different from the part of your brain that reads about it."
"What does this have to do with Jerry?" Barnes said. "We know," Norman said, "that a smart person is just as likely to blunder emotionally as anyone else. If Jerry is really an emotional creature - and not just pretending to be one - then we need to deal with his emotional side as well as his intellectual side."
"Very convenient for you," Ted said.
"Not really," Norman said. "Frankly, I'd be much happier if Jerry were just cold, emotionless intellect."
"Because," Norman said, "if Jerry is powerful and also emotional, it raises a question. What happens if Jerry gets mad?"
The group broke up. Harry, exhausted by the sustained effort of decoding, immediately went off to sleep. Ted went to C Cyl to tape his personal observations on Jerry for the book he was planning to write. Barnes and Fletcher went to E Cyl to plan battle strategy, in case the alien decided to attack them.
Tina stayed for a moment, adjusting the monitors in her precise, methodical way. Norman and Beth watched her work. She spent a lot of time with a deck of controls Norman had never noticed before. There was a series of gas-plasma readout screens, glowing bright red.
"What's all that?" Beth said.
"EPSA. The External Perimeter Sensor Array. We have active and passive sensors for all modalities - thermal, aural, pressure-wave - ranged in concentric circles around the habitat. Captain Barnes wants them all reset and activated."
"Why is that?" Norman said.
"I don't know, sir. His orders."
The intercom crackled. Barnes said: "Seaman Chan to E Cylinder on the double. And shut down the com line in here. I don't want that Jerry listening to these plans."
Beth said, "Paranoid ass."
Tina collected her papers and hurried off.
Norman sat with Beth in silence for a moment. They heard the rhythmic thumping, from somewhere in the habitat. Then another silence; then they heard the thumping again.
"What is that?" Beth said. "It sounds like it's somewhere inside the habitat." She went to the porthole, looked out, flicked on the exterior floods. "Uh-oh," Beth said. Norman looked.
Stretching across the ocean floor was an elongated shadow which moved back and forth with each thumping impact. The shadow was so distorted it took him a moment to realize what he was seeing. It was the shadow of a human arm, and a human hand.
"Captain Barnes. Are you there?"
There was no reply. Norman snapped the intercom switch again.
"Captain Barnes, are you reading?"
Still no reply.
"He's shut off the com line," Beth said. "He can't hear you."
"Do you think the person's still alive out there?" Norman said.
"I don't know. They might be."
"Let's get going," Norman said.
He tasted the dry metallic compressed air inside his helmet and felt the numbing cold of the water as he slid through the floor hatch and fell in darkness to the soft muddy bottom. Moments later, Beth landed just behind him.
"Okay?" she said.
"I don't see any jellyfish," she said.
"No. Neither do I."
They moved out from beneath the habitat, turned, and looked back. The habitat lights shone harshly into their eyes, obscuring the outlines of the cylinders rising above. They could clearly hear the rhythmic thumping, but they still could not locate the source of the sound. They walked beneath the stanchions to the far side of the habitat, squinting into the lights.
"There," Beth said.
Ten feet above them, a blue-suited figure was wedged in a light stand bracket. The body moved loosely in the current, the bright-yellow helmet banging intermittently against the wall of the habitat.
"Can you see who it is?" Beth said.
"No." The lights were shining directly in his face. Norman climbed up one of the heavy supporting stanchions that anchored the habitat to the bottom. The metal surface was covered with a slippery brown algae. His boots kept sliding off the pipes until finally he saw that there were built-in indented footholds. Then he climbed easily.
Now the feet of the body were swinging just above his head. Norman climbed another step, and one of the boots caught in the loop of the air hose that ran from his tank pack to his helmet. He reached behind his helmet, trying to free himself from the body. The body shivered, and for an awful moment he thought it was still alive. Then the boot came free in his hand, and a naked foot - gray flesh, purple toenails - kicked his faceplate. A moment of nausea quickly passed: Norman had seen too many airplane crashes to be bothered by this. He dropped the boot, watched it drift down to Beth. He tugged on the leg of the corpse. He felt a mushy softness to the leg, and the body came free; it gently drifted down. He grabbed the shoulder, again feeling softness. He turned the body so he could see the face.
Her helmet was filled with water; behind the faceplate he saw staring eyes, open mouth, an expression of horror.
"I got her," Beth said, pulling the body down. Then she said, "Jesus."
Norman climbed back down the stanchion. Beth was moving the body away from the habitat, into the lighted area beyond.
"She's all soft. It's like every bone in her body was broken."
"I know." He moved out into the light, joined her. He felt a strange detachment, a coldness and a remove. He had known this woman; she had been alive just a short time before; now she was dead. But it was as if he were viewing it all from a great distance.
He turned Levy's body over. On the left side was a long tear in the fabric of the suit. He had a glimpse of red mangled flesh. Norman bent to inspect it. "An accident?"
"I don't think so," Beth said.
"Here. Hold her." Norman lifted up the edges of suit fabric. Several separate tears met at a central point. "It's actually torn in a star pattern," he said. "You see?"
She stepped back. "I see, yes."
"What would cause that, Beth?"
"I don't - I'm not sure."
Beth stepped farther back. Norman was looking into the tear, at the body beneath the suit. "The flesh is macerated."
Yes, definitely chewed, he thought, probing inside the tear. The wound was peculiar: there were fine, jagged serrations in the flesh. Thin pale-red trickles of blood drifted up past his faceplate.
"Let's go back," Beth said.
"Just hang on." Norman squeezed the body at legs, hips, shoulders. Everywhere it was soft, like a sponge. The body had been somehow almost entirely crushed. He could feel the leg bones, broken in many places. What could have done that? He went back to the wound.
"I don't like it out here," Beth said, tense.
"Just a second."
At first inspection, he had thought Levy's wound represented some sort of bite, but now he wasn't sure. "Her skin," Norman said. "It's like a rough file has gone over it - "
He jerked his head back, startled, as something small and white drifted past his faceplate. His heart pounded at the thought that it was a jellyfish - but then he saw it was perfectly round and almost opaque. It was about the size of a golf ball. It drifted past him.
He looked around. There were thin streaks of mucus in the water. And many white spheres.
"What're these, Beth?"
"Eggs." Over the intercom, he heard her take deep slow breaths. "Let's get out of here, Norman. Please."
"Just another second."
"No, Norman. Now."
On the radio, they heard an alarm. Distant and tinny, it seemed to be transmitted from inside the habitat. They heard voices, and then Barnes's voice, very loud. "What the hell are you doing out there?"
"We found Levy, Hal," Norman said.
"Well, get back on the double, damn it," Barnes said. "The sensors have activated. You're not alone out there - and whatever's with you is very damn big."
Norman felt dull and slow. "What about levy's body?"
"Drop the body. Get back here!"
But the body, he thought sluggishly. They had to do something with the body. He couldn't just leave the body.